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Latino Conservatives Launch Immigration Group As W.H. Close To Executive Action

The president appears to be closing in on executive action on immigration while conservative Latinos propose a different way to fix immigration.
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File photo of U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. AP

The president appears to have closed in on steps he wants to take on immigration through executive action, while a group of Latino conservatives announced a coalition advocating for immigration reform, but urged action through Congress.

Reports from the New York Times and Fox News say that executive action could come from President Barack Obama as soon as next week, although the reports differ on some of the steps he'll take.

Both media outlets said the action would include deferral of deportations for immigrant parents of U.S. citizen and legal resident children. Another group of immigrants who have been in the U.S. 10 years or more also could be included and more young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children could be given deferrals.

Both also reported possible changes to Secure Communities, under which fingerprints collected by local law enforcement officials are checked for immigration and citizenship status.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a news conference from Myanmar that Obama is close to a decision on what steps he'll take on immigration, but had not made one yet. In response to questions on the Fox report, which was based on a draft document the network obtained, the White House had said the president had not received final recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security.

However, Obama met recently with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to discuss the status of options that Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder have been hashing out, Earnest said. The New York Times reported details were still being finished and the president could push off the announcement until next month, but will do it by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Earnest challenged Republicans in Congress to move as swiftly with immigration reform legislation as they have with a vote on the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline."There's no reason the fact that the House is in lame duck session, that that should affect their ability or even interest in bringing to the floor bipartisan legislation that's already passed the United States Senate to deal with immigration reform," Earnest said. Obama is in Myanmar for the East Asia summit and then goes to Australia for a trip that wraps up Sunday.

House Republicans have refused to take up the bipartisan Senate bill that was passed in June 2013 and failed to advance to a vote any of their own immigration reform bills drafted since then.

Earnest said the president's decision timeline is not timed to when Congress might act, but he said if Congress takes up the bipartisan Senate bill, he would "happily sign that bill into law in a way that would supersede any executive action that he took just weeks prior."

Angela Kelley, an immigration expert at the liberal Center for American Progress, said the proposals are all issues that advocates have pushed during the Obama administration. Kelley said the proposals suggest that the administration had listened to arguments advocates have made over the years on the various issues.

"I think the big question will still be whether the deferred action is going to be big enough to satisfy people’s appetites," Kelley said.

Separately, a group of conservative Hispanics announced Thursday they were launching the Hispanic leaders for Immigration coalition, made up of right of center Hispanic leaders who want to see immigration reform "addressed in a conservative way by the U.S. Congress."

The launch of the group came with the release of a study by the conservative groups arguing that the Latino vote is in play politically for 2016 and Latino voters tend to be more conservative and is "a vote that deserves to be courted aggressively by all parties."

Al Cardenas, former chairman of the American Conservative Union, noted the midterm elections marked the fourth time in four years that American voters have turned the government over to a different party. That shows that voters have both parties on a "short leash" and have been growing frustrated with inaction by Congress, he said.

Congress needs to find a permanent solution for immigration, but he said the new Congress needs to address it next year.

"We're going to do everything possible in our sphere of influence to see to it that this issue is fairly debated and brought to the floor for a vote," Cardenas said.

Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principle, said Obama's plan to take executive action is a bad idea. But he said the Republican response should not be to only criticize or to rescind the order. He said they also have to pass some form of immigration reform.

"If they don't, it's going to put us in a very tough position. A tough position that it will be difficult to win the White House. It will be very difficult for Repubicans to maintain the majority in the Senate," he said. "I think it's the message we are sending our fellow conservatives. It's not enough to oppose unilateral action. We need to lead on this issue. We have to reclaim it."

Hector Barreto, chairman of the Latino Coalition , said the Hispanic vote lost by Democrats doesn't necessarily automatically go to Republicans, many Hispanics are independent and instead are looking at "who's going to fix this problem."